School students in NZ to have access to free period products from June
From June this year, all primary, intermediate, secondary school and kura students will have access to free period products, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced today.
The announcement follows the Access to Period Products pilot programme, which has been running since Term 3 last year in 15 schools and kura in the Waikato region.
“Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population,” said Jacinda Ardern.
Speaking at Fairfield College in Hamilton, which took part in the pilot, Jacinda Ardern said feedback from the students was that period products should be made available for all who need them, when they need them.
“The positive response from schools and students to the pilot has encouraged us to expand the initiative to all New Zealand schools and kura,” said Jacinda Ardern.
Around 3,200 young people were provided with period products during the pilot.
Minister Tinetti said issues with periods at school included embarrassment, stigma, missing classes, being ‘caught out’ without product, cost, lack of knowledge and discomfort.
“Feedback from the pilot noted that providing choice was important, both in types of products and the way they are accessed. Students also said they wanted information about periods, period products, and other practical elements of managing their period such as tracking and knowing when and who to reach out to for assistance.”
The Ministry of Education will work with suppliers to manage a phased roll out of the scheme, with period products available towards the end of Term 2 for schools and kura that opt-in by March. Those schools and kura that do not initially choose to take up the initiative will continue to be able to opt-in to the initiative at a later date.
Pacific students speak out about period poverty
Last year Tagata Pasifika reported on period poverty in New Zealand, which disproportionately affects Pacific youth. A Health and Wellbeing survey called Youth2000 showed that 14% of Pacific students missed out on school because they didn’t have menstrual items.
“Attendance is really important, but sometimes when it comes to having your period at school, it’s just like a learning barrier,” said Auckland Girls’ Grammar student Josephine Falefa. “Like sometimes you even think to yourself, ‘Oh I need to go home’ or ‘I need to buy a pad’.”
Some students even used alternative means.
“I’ve heard of like girls using nappies, like toddler nappies, rags and stuff like that, cloths, like re-washing them,” said Auckland Girls’ Grammar student Saiaisi Pita.
An investigator on the Youth2000 survey, Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, said Pasifika communities also deal with a number of cultural difficulties around period poverty.
“We found that there was a lot of stigma around that, and of course those conversations about menstruating are not easily had in Pacific families,” said Tiatia-Seath.